Move over fellas, Australian women are breaking down barriers in the stock dog arena – ABC Rural


These four women share a one thing in common. They love their stock dogs for their hard work and companionship.

They also compete in stock dog trials right across the country, but they are the common few in a sport dominated by blokes.

It is a competitive sport in which dogs — usually kelpies and border collies — herd sheep or cattle around a course, directed by their handler.

At the Australian Stock Dog Spectacular in Tamworth NSW this week, organiser Margo Hogan estimated fewer than 10 per cent of the competitors were women.

In the past few years, she has seen more females take to the ring but said there was still a big gender gap that she would love to see tightened.

“At most of the local trials there are ladies’ trials … a lot more ladies are cattle dog trialling than there has ever been,” she said.

“If there are ladies out there who want to have a go, there are people out there willing to give advice.

Sheep trial judge Michael Condon said it was true that the uptake of female competitors had been slow.

Particularly when you consider the sport was hundreds of years old.

“There are two [women] out of 10 [people] in the finals, so that probably sums up where they are at,” Mr Condon said.

Irreplaceable bonds

All of these women said the sport and the bonds they had with their dogs provided a sense of achievement.

Queensland competitor Fenella Neilson spends many hours training and working her dogs.

“The hours you put into training them and then to bring it out onto a public arena and display your training … it is really confidence-building,” Ms Neilson said.

“It is just going out there and getting a job done together and you know that they respect you,” added Cassie Clark.

Most of these kelpies and collies also work beside the women on the farm.

“They are part of you, seven days a week,” Ms Neilson said.

“To take them out on the weekend and do what they enjoy, there is nothing better.”

For Jane Eveleigh, her dog is her best mate.

“My kids have all left home now and it is the last person you put to bed at night … they are loyal, very loyal.”

For Ms Hogan, her dogs provide relief from the business of everyday life.

“We come home in the afternoon and go and grab a couple of stubbies and go and get pups out and play in the round yard for an hour,” she said.

“That is how it starts.”

Friendly blokes

Jane Eveleigh said she found male competitors were welcoming.

“They are quite accommodating and very, very helpful but I think they think we will give it away,” she laughed.

“But the men have been really wonderful, perfect gentleman.”

“There is a mutual respect between men and women in this sport and it is an even playing field,” Ms Neilson added.

However, it would seem men and women handle their dogs differently.

Mr Condon said often women were softer handlers and dedicated to training.

“They work hard at the sport … they are very dedicated handlers and they will be a force to be reckoned with in time.”

Perhaps, though, Ms Eveleigh puts it best.

My first dog trial

Cassie Clark remembers her first dog trial well.

“My first one was at Gladstone in the maiden and we ended up actually placing fifth so I was stoked [but] bloody nervous,” she said.

Ms Eveleigh’s first was a three-sheep trial, where the dog — under instruction — works three sheep through a designated course.

Ms Hogan came involved through her husband, Peter.

“He basically got me started so I started yard trialling and then decided I was going to have a go at this thing called cattle trialling,” she said.

Ms Neilson has worked with dogs on the farm her entire life, but it was lessons learnt from her dad that began her journey towards the sport.

“My dad always had working dogs but he never had a real good handle on them and I just said to myself I don’t want to be like that,” she said.

“So here I am, I love it.”



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